NAUGATUCK – The Tug Valley Panthers are set to host the Calhoun County Red Devils on Friday night.
The (5-2) Panthers got some of their mojo back last week after beating Valley 36-22. The Panthers had two hard loses in a row before they won against the Valley Greyhounds. With only three games left in the regular season, the Panthers will face Calhoun, Montcalm and then Man. The Panthers have tons of opportunity to finish high enough in the state rankings to host a playoff game on their home field for the second year in a row.
Calhoun (4-3) is coming off their third loss in a row heading into Friday night’s game. The Red Devils are 2-2 on the road and will face a solid Panther team.
Calhoun runs a 3-4 defense and has been seen using an outside linebacker off the end to provide extra pressure on the quarterback. The Red Devil offense works out of the wing-T, gun, and power ‘I’ formations. They have size on the line and quickness in the backfield.
Tug Valley has been all or nothing for most of the season. The Panthers have versatile players who can rush up the middle or beat you deep on the pass. Panther quarterback, Tyler Conley works from under center and out of the gun formation and provides a lot of leadership for the offense. Phillip Lucas provides the backfield pass protection for Conley and will come in handy if Calhoun brings a blitzer off the end.
Lucas remains one of the Panthers most unsung heroes . Lucas’s size makes him a big target for defenses looking for some contact; it actually helps contribute the success of the other rushers because it’s hard to keep your eyes off Lucas and his size. Lucas is second on the team in rushing yards with 370 and has contributed greatly to the passing game hauling in seven receptions for 81-yards.
Jeremy Dillon provides an unplanned variable against opposing defenses with his ability to play as quarterback, running back and receiver. With Dillon’s speed and agility opposing defenses are forced to play safe instead of aggressive. Calvin Blankenship provides the Panthers with a deep threat receiver. The speedy Corbin Oliver is the Panthers scat back and leads the ground game in rushing yards this season. Oliver has 395-yards on 40 carries accompanied with five rushing touchdowns.
Dillon leads the team in rushing touchdowns with six this season and adds four receiving touchdowns. Blankenship is the Panthers leading receiver with 415-yards on 15 receptions and four receiving touchdowns. Conley has done well this season passing from inside the pocket with completing nearly 50% of his passes. Conley has thrown for 682-yards on 41 completions and thrown eight touchdown passes and only two interceptions.
The Panthers defense has five players with over 30 tackles on the year. Conley leads the way with 42 tackles, Dillon has 41 tackles, Noah Lucas has 39 tackles, Ike Starr has 36 tackles and Oliver has 31 tackles.
Tug Valley suffered a big loss two games ago when they lost Dustin Mills to a non-sports related injury. Mills provided size and power to the offensive and defensive line and players like Mills always leave space.
Starr has been the stopping power for the Panthers defensively this season with 10 tackles for a loss of yardage. Dylan Dotson is also providing a lot of pressure for the defense with three forced fumbles on the season.
The only available mutual win to help gauge both teams is the Sherman Tide. Both Tug Valley and Calhoun won against Sherman earlier in the year. The Panthers beat Sherman by a score of 36-7, Calhoun beat Sherman by a score of 35-6. If these scores are any indication and with Calhoun’s tough schedule taken into consideration the two teams seem evenly matched.
The game is scheduled to begin at Tug Valley at 7:30 p.m. Friday night.
(William Plaster is the sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News, he can be reached at 304-235-4242 ext. 2274 or at [email protected] or on twitter @sidplaster)